I believe the resurrection did, in fact, occur. I believe Jesus truly did rise physically from the grave on the third day after He was crucified and buried. But the question before us is, “What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?”
There are a thousand possible answers to such a question, but let’s just face the music and jump to the hardest and most troublesome answer of all: If Jesus did not rise from the dead, probably most of Christianity is a lie. We could probably hold on to the idea of God, and some of the historical events in the Bible, but beyond that, most of it would probably not be true.
I mean, if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then most of the Bible is probably not true because most of the Bible is centered on the idea of the resurrection.
If the resurrection did not happen, the truthfulness of the Bible itself should be doubted.
But you know what?
Even if the Bible cannot be trusted, even if Christianity is based on a lie, even if nothing I believe is actually true, I don’t think much of anything in my life would change.
Because what other options are there?
Should I join a different religion? Which one? I have studied and worked with all the various religions, and find none of them as compelling or life-changing as Jesus. I find all of them to be less inspiring than the stories about Jesus and the truths contained in Scripture, even if these things are lies.
If everything about Jesus is a lie, I would rather follow the lie that is Jesus than the truth of any world religion.
What about atheism? God, no! (I am not cursing! That was a pun!) I know many atheists, and I guess I would rather live by an inspiring story I knew was mostly wrong than a belief that everything is chance and nothing has meaning beyond the physical realm. Call it a crutch if you want, but I have enough trouble living life with God. I cannot imagine trying to get through life without Him.
If the resurrection did not happen, then most of the Bible is probably false. But that does not mean that some other religion is true, or that we must all become atheists.
To the contrary, even if the resurrection did not happen, we can still follow the teachings and example of Jesus. Why? Because there is no other person or idea in any other religion or in all of history that is more inspiring, loving, and hopeful than Jesus.
Even if Jesus did not rise from the dead, I would still follow Jesus. For me, there is no other option.
C.S. Lewis once considered a similar question. In one of his letters to a friend, Lewis explained what he would do if he found out that God had actually lost the cosmic battle to Satan. In such a case, there would be no heaven for believers, no hope for life after death, no cause to believe that God was all-powerful or perfect. But in such a situation, what would C. S. Lewis do? Here is what he wrote:
Even if—let’s make an impossible supposition—His voice—unmistakably His, said to me, “They have misled you. I can do nothing [about taking you to heaven]. My long struggle with the blind forces is nearly over. I die, children. The story is ending,” would that be a moment for changing sides? Would not you and I take the Viking way: “The Giants and Trolls win. Let us die on the right side, with Father Odin” (Letters to Malcolm, 120).
In other words, C. S. Lewis says that even if God Himself spoke to Lewis and told him that it was all a lie, that God had tried His hardest, but had finally lost, and was now about to disappear into oblivion and defeat, C. S. Lewis says it would not matter one bit. He would still stick with God. He would not switch sides. He would go down fighting, next to our dying God.
That is the same way I feel about Jesus.
I firmly believe everything written about Him in the Scriptures. I believe it is all true. I believe in the virgin birth, the miracles, the teachings, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.
But if He were to appear to me and say, “You’ve been misled. Yes, I lived and died, and some of the stories are true, but most of it is a lie. I have been defeated. Sin and Satan won. Death was not destroyed. We are all heading into oblivion,” I would shrug my shoulders and say, “It matters not. I will follow what is written anyway, for there is no better way to live. And though the battle has been lost, at least maybe I can show some love and care to a few more people before we are all swept away.”
So what if Jesus did not rise from the dead? My answer is, “So what? I will follow Him anyway. Following the example of Jesus is by far the best way to live.”
This post is part of the April 2012 Synchroblog. Here is a list of the other contributors. Go check them all out!
- Marta – On Faith Seeking Understanding, Truth, and Theology
- Carol Kuniholm – Risen Indeed? The Hermeneutic Community
- Tim Nichols – How Would Life be Different if Jesus did not Rise?
- Glenn – Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
- Sonja Andrews – The Resurrection and the Life
- Josh Morgan – The Role of the Resurrection
- Abbie Watters – What if the Resurrection were a lie?
- Minnow – Resurrection Impact
- Leah – Resurrection – Or Not!
- Hey Sonnie – The Resurrection Hoax
- Liz Dyer – The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
- Ellen Haroutunian – Is There a Christianity Without the Resurrection?
- Jeannette Altes – What if…
- Christine Sine – If the Resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
- KW Leslie – Supposing Jesus is Dead
- Travis Mamone – If the Resurrection was a Hoax
- Kathy Escobar – Jenga Faith
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Matthew Aznoe says
If Jesus was not raised from the dead, it changes everything. If there is no resurrection I am still dead in my sins and destined for Hell. I have no hope of future glory and no purpose in my life. Really, what is the difference at this point between me and an atheist who is trying to live a good life? I have several friends who are atheists and yet they admire the example of Jesus’ life. But so what? Does having an admiration or even an imitation of Jesus bring us salvation?
We are saved by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his atonement for our sin. He died for our transgressions, and he was raised to show that he had conquered sin and death on our behalf. As Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.” (1 Cor 5:13) At that point, there is no difference between Jesus and any other “good” religious leader in the myriad of religions that focus on good works to earn salvation. It is the gift of God through the crucified and resurrected Christ that brings us redemption and hope.
A life without a raised Christ will be a life of hopeless despair — especially when he gave such commands as loving your enemies, enduring persecution, and laying down your life for the Gospel. His command to store up treasures in heaven is ludicrous for there is now no future reward at all. “For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.” (1 Cor. 15:19)
The resurrection is absolutely essential to our faith and our life in the Spirit. Without the resurrection, Christianity loses all of its power, purpose, and hope.
Hi Matthew, I agree, The Resurrection is The Linchpin.
Jeremy Myers says
I agree 100%.
But as part of this synchroblog, we were challenged to ask the very difficult question of “What if…?”
I decided that even if Jesus did not rise, His way of living is still the best and I would follow Him anyway. What other options are there?
Even if He did not rise His way of living is still the best? He told his disciples that he was going to be put to death by His enemies, and rise in 3 days, if this didn’t happen He’d be a liar- is lying the best way to live life? He came to fulfill the law, provide the final sacrifice, and to conquer death- if he didn’t die and rise, he was the greatest con man who ever lived and His followers just as much a liar as He was.
Hi Jeremy, this is beautiful! Though I haven’t studied other world religions as extensively as you have, Jesus is the only option for me, as well; everything about Jesus attracts and compels me… thanks and peace!
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks, Leah. Jesus is the only option!
Jeremy – LOL – you and I certainly see a lot of stuff about Christianity differently but we both agree that the story of Jesus is beautiful and inspiring enough to make us want to follow him and his ways!
And I hope you will forgive me for having to speak up on behalf of my atheist friends and say that I don’t find their lives to be empty. In fact, some of them seem to lead more beautiful, loving and full lives than some Christians I know.
Jeremy Myers says
I may have been too hard on atheists…. I have several atheist friends also. Thanks for standing up for them!
You are correct, Liz. One doesn’t have to join a religion to be a good, decent person. There is a wealth of truth and beauty, poetry, drama and wisdom in all religions, but unfortunately, there is a heap of garbage in all of them too…. IMHO. It’s takes time and study to sort one from the other. Jesus was a great teacher, but so was Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and others. My understanding of world religions has brought me to that conclusion and it works for me. I refuse to join any one religion and will not affirm the existence of god or gods, saints or Satan, nor will I deny them. Religions are born out of the human experience of mystery and awe, fear and instinct, a need to belong and care for others. Now, let’s not forget, there is another valid group of non-believers. I am a confirmed Agnostic. Whether Jesus rose from the dead literally or not makes no difference to me. It’s whether a person is wise enough to recognize and integrate his teachings and the teachings of other great teachers into life and make them real that matters. In that way, and that way alone, Jesus rises from the dead and lives on in the human heart and mind because if you believe in the Resurrection then treat people without compassion, mercy, justice and forgiveness, what good is the any of it? “Love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy.” and if you need one, love your god with all your heart. This is all that matters to me; the matter of focus.
without the resurrection of Christ (assuming God intended it that way), we would still be waiting for the promised Messiah-King who is to rule on the throne of David.
without the resurrection of Christ, we still do have His sacrifice that was received by the Father. There would be redemption for men, but without the “resurrection power” to live as what Paul called “a new creation”. Grace & Truth would still have come into the world, so things would surely be better than they were “B.C.”. Sure glad He did rise to demonstrate power over death so eloquently!
Jeremy Myers says
Yes. Without the resurrection, much would change, and the world would be a radically different place. I too am glad He rose!
Mark Burgher says
It reminds me of the part of Paul’s letter that says ‘faith, hope and love exist together, but love is greatest’. Hope is the expectation of salvation, faith is the solid that holds it together but love (which conquers all, even disappointment on that level) exceeds even faith and hope.
Indeed, what can separate us from God’s love?
Jeremy Myers says
Yes! Love does hold it all together!
Stephen Butler says
I love how Paul makes the point of love being greater than faith and hope! One day our faith will be made sight…no more need for that! Love wins!
I agree, love is eternal- but Paul also said that if Jesus did not rise we Christians are to be most pitied. We’d be a bunch of dupes that fell for a huge lie, and death has not been conquered, where’s the hope in that? If Jesus never rose from the dead there would be no compeling reason to believe anything He said.
Yuri Wijting says
Jeremy, if Christ isn’t risen then it would be better to simply get on with your life and maximize your pleasure. You answer, “So what, I’ll follow him anyway.” This is not the sentiment the apostle Paul shared. The reason I don’t follow other religions is that I believe they’re ultimately dead-ends, no matter how nice its ethics or doctrine. If Christ is not risen, then I would have to apply the same logic that I do to all other religions that it is too a dead-end and nothing more than superstition. Paul could not had led the life he did if he didn’t believe in the resurrection. As it has been said before that the entirety of Christianity hangs on the resurrection. Without it, I’m sorry Jeremy, but I could not and would not just follow him anyway.
Jeremy Myers says
Yuri, yes. I do not disagree. Paul is absolutely right that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, our faith is vain and we are yet in our sins. The point of my post, however, was about the best way to live life. Look at the people who live in life to maximize pleasure (as you put it). Do they really have a better way of life than the life you are living as a follower of Jesus? I say “No.” A life of following Jesus is better than a life of following anything else. That is all I was saying.
Yuri Wijting says
Jeremy, I see what you’re saying. I would still say that (without the resurrection) following Jesus leads to a cruciform life that is unappealing. But I hear what you’re saying and appreciate your meaning. Happy Easter btw 🙂
Jim Dee says
Yuri Wijting says
I’m not so sure. If someone were able to demonstrate, slam-dunk, that Jesus never rose from the dead, then my faith would pretty much be over. I would be forced to have a very different view of the universe. I would be extremely depressed for about a week or two and then decide either to live completely hedonistically or consider suicide.
Mark Burgher says
The Resurrection gives us Hope; through adversity/persecution and it is the sign of His promise and demonstration of His power over death and the grave. It is a great hope but it should be taken as the encouragement to keep loving rather than a afterlife reward.
We are not called to hope or unto hope, we are called to love; the greatest of the three which conquers all and never fails and will change the world.
Jeremy Myers says
Yuri, my post was a hopeful hypothetical question, but I wonder if I wouldn’t do the same as you suggest … in my darker moments I probably would. Yet we all know numerous die-hard atheists who seem to live pretty meaningful and joyful lives. How do they do it?
Mark, yes, I am so thankful for the resurrection of Jesus. As you say, it provides limitless hope for the future.
I don’t get it- help me understand. Jesus came to show us that this is not the life we should look forward to, but the next life is the life that’s really important. If you believe there is no hell, that Jesus suffered and died for everyone regardless of belief, I could understand the atheist living a good and meaningful life, but Jesus said none are good, not one. He spoke of hell more than all characters in the bible combined. Is this a univeralist bog?
Sam Riviera says
No, this is not a universalist blog. When Jesus brought the Kingdom, he wasn’t just announcing the next life, but life in the here and now. Jesus didn’t hide behind the walls of the temple, but was out among the common people, getting his hands dirty. If we follow him, shouldn’t we suppose that he, as our rabbi so to speak, was giving us examples of how our lives should be lived in the here and now?
Go OffGoff says
Excellent piece: resonates deeply w/me Jeremy. Mark, “called to love…”, absolutely! Thank you for your comments and Jeremy for the post.
Matthew Richardson says
As expressed many times in scripture and mentin occosionally in your blogs, the disciples were filled with doubt after His death. Had He not returned, the church may very well never have gotten started.
Nathan Tritch says
He is RISEN, He is RISEN Indeed Halleluiah!
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
There is no point in imagining that Christ did not rise from the dead, 1 Cor. 15:19, and you can not live a good life without God on earth or in heaven, we have no good apart from God, “I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'” (Psalm 16:2) Christ crucified and resurrected (1 Cor, 15:3-4) is the only Way, Truth, and Life, John 14:6.
“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27)
In the Name of Christ Jesus. Amen.
You say you would “follow the teachings and example of Jesus,” but in actuality you would only follow some of the teachings and example of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, some of his teachings and example would be irrational and meaningless.